Freddie never showed much interest in potty training, he was always happy to keep his nappy on until it was touching the floor. I bought a potty when he was nearly two and he would happily sit on it but would never do a wee or a poo. I had a couple of failed attempts at putting him into pants. He would sit on the potty but then once he was dressed again he would go to the loo. If he was wearing nothing he would just hold it. I never pushed it and just returned him to his pull ups.

Potty blues 

I tried the traditional sticker charts, toy bags, tablets, stories and songs and explanations of what was happening and how he needed to let the wee out to play, all without success. Finally he got fed up of sitting on the potty at all.

Beginning to withhold 

Freddie’s playgroup was very understanding and encouraging. The Playgroup Manager suggested I send him in pants and they would get him to sit regularly on the potty throughout the day. They did this, but he still would not wee or poo. He began to hold it all day until he got home and then wee on the doorstep. Playgroup just found that when he said no he meant it. They approached SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) to evaluate him. His behaviour was regarded as normal and just they suggested putting his pants on under his pull ups. We managed this for one day.

Trying different tactics 

He was now about three and a half. That summer I just put him back into pull ups as he was withholding his wee and poo. On one occasion for example I left him from 7pm in the evening until 11am the next day with lots of time sitting on the toilet but he would not wee until I put his pull ups on. At this time he was perfectly dry at night. By now, we had all got fed up with the whole thing so I decided to leave him alone and see if he would make the decision. Well he didn’t!

Countdown to school

The following spring he was four and a half and due to start school in the Autumn, he wasn’t sitting on the loo at all, he would not go into public toilets and would not even talk about using the toilet. I contacted ERIC's free helpline who gave me a structured plan which I found great and offered some success.

Using nappies just for wee and poo 

The first step was to get him into the toilet. He would wear pants all day and then just put his pull ups on to wee or poo. He progressed to only doing this in the bathroom quite quickly and I got him to sit on the lid of the loo (wearing his pull ups). Then I was able to lift the lid of the loo and he would sit on the toilet properly but wearing pull ups to wee and poo. He was happy with this and throughout the summer he carried on doing this. I could take him for days out and he started to use public toilets too but there it stopped. He refused to remove the pull ups and he didn’t like me tearing the tabs at the side to try and get him use to not wearing them.

ERIC's guide to children who will only poo in a nappy provides a step by step guide to this process. 

Help from school nurse 

Again I was stuck and that was the way he started to school in September at five years old. We are both very lucky in that he attends a small school and they were able to accommodate his needs. By now he would take himself into the toilet put on his own pull ups and go the loo. It was the school nurse who then got us into an Enuresis Clinic which was the final link. We attended one session and the nurse quickly understood our frustrations that he was almost there other than this final leap.

Relief at finding support

The nurse put me in touch with another parent who had gone through similar with both her children and she was brilliant. It was such a relief to find that you are not just a hopeless parent and that other people who are perfectly capable who struggle to. Mostly they struggle silently as it as subject that generally does not get mentioned. I found that most friends had achieved toileting with their children from between 1½ and 2½ they just assumed I was a soft touch and that Freddie was a spoilt only child from a single parent family.

Putting holes in pull ups  

The woman I spoke to suggested making small holes in the pull ups, tiny at first to gradually get them used to the noise and feeling when they did a wee or poo on the loo. I had tried this previously but I had gone all out and cut a big hole which was doomed to fail. I start with one hole stabbed with a pair of scissors this progressed to three at which point I cut out a hole. I got to the point where I was cutting out the entire pull up other than the legs and the waistband and just re-using the same one.

Success finally! 

This whole process took a couple of weeks with a few stops and starts but most of the time he was happy to both wee and poo. Finally one day I said try standing on one side of the toilet and weeing into the loo (a boy challenge!!) this worked the next day he didn’t bother with his nappy at all. He is now happily using the urinal at school and out in public toilets, he wipes his own bottom after a poo and what’s more is he is very happy with himself. It seemed so hopeless originally, yet overnight he got it.